Exclusive: Widow of first man to die in Rikers Island in 2024 demanding answers

The Department of Correction says that 43-year-old Chima Williams collapsed while playing basketball with other inmates, leading to his death.

Shakti Denis and Adolfo Carrion

Jan 9, 2024, 1:12 AM

Updated 187 days ago

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The widow of a man who became the first person to die on Rikers Island this year is demanding answers from the Department of Correction.  
Chelsea Francis saw her husband and the father of her three kids just before Christmas – but didn’t expect it to be the last time.  
“I haven’t told my kids yet, I can’t even think of the words to say… I don’t want to steal their happiness away,” said Francis. “Honestly in my head I thought everything is going to be OK.” 
The Department of Correction says 43-year-old Chima Williams collapsed while playing basketball with other inmates, leading to his death. He was arrested after police say he was threatening someone with a gun.  
Williams died on Jan. 4, and the DOC says that medics and jail staff provided all the proper medical care for someone suffering cardiac arrest and even gave him naloxone, the overdose reversal drug.  
“I feel like they just watched him die there,” said Francis.  
The DOC says it is currently investigating the incident, but Francis says that she feels left in the dark.
According to the DOC, Williams is the 29th person to die behind bars in NYC since Mayor Eric Adams took office two years ago. 
This latest death sparked new criticism over how the Adams administrations is handling the jail and renewed calls for a federal takeover.
"This should be a sign to this mayoral administration that we need to stop sending people to Rikers to die," said Darren Mack, Co-Director of the Freedom Agenda.  "We need to actually make some real investments to those services and programs that actually close the pipeline that’s feeding Rikers."


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